Wreck-It Ralph the movie is a movie based on video games. Wreck-It Ralph the video game is a video game based on a movie based on video games. How delightfully meta. But despite all the promise that you might think would come with that premise, a couple of key issues conspired to result in a game that falls well short of expectations.
First, I get that there are just too many rights issues involved to realistically make a video game with all the different characters involved. Frankly, I’m surprised the movie itself even got made, what with all the cooks who were undoubtedly in the kitchen for this one. At least in the movie, you can limit what a character does to the satisfaction of the rights holder, so this was never going to be a video game with an ensemble cast, no matter how awesome that would have been.
Second, it’s a movie tie-in game. This is always concerning as almost by rule, they tend to be rushed cash-in exercises, and have achieved a certain stigma as a result. Now, Disney Interactive has in the past bucked this trend with solid titles from their properties like Toy Story 3, Cars 2, and Brave. So there was some hope for this title.
Consider this one more wrecked than fixed.
Wreck-It Ralph is a platforming game that takes place after the events of the movie. You get to play as the two main characters, Wreck-It Ralph and Fix-It Felix, switching between the two as needed to exploit their character-specific abilities. Ralph is big and strong, thus he’s used mostly for offense and breaking things. Felix is smaller and more nimble, thus he’s better for the heavy-duty platforming, especially with his double jump. Utilizing the two appropriately is key to getting through a level, and there are some basic puzzles that use this mechanic. Fortunately, for younger gamers and those not quite sure of themselves, the game will prompt you with hints rather liberally.
It’s a competent platformer, although at times the platforming gets a little hard to manage. Felix gets a little floaty, and when the game asks you to stick a landing on a narrow platform, you’ll find yourself dying a few times until you nail it. Luckily, this game gives out free lives like candy, so it’s unlikely you’ll run out unless you’re terrible at platformers, or you’re four years old.
I’m frustrated because there are obvious signs that this game was rushed out in time for the movie. The production values leave a bit to be desired. The pre-level cutscenes are barebones still shots with speech bubbles that barely set up what’s going on. Considering they did have an animated game introduction, why couldn’t they have done a few more to set up the levels? The visuals are okay, but they reside in a space that’s between the classic 8-bit style and the nice-looking animation from the movie. The quick character quips of dialog repeat fairly quickly. But the worst sin is the length of the game. Two to three hours, maybe, to complete the story mode. Which is the only mode. It might actually take longer to watch the movie. Yes, when you finish the story mode, it opens up Game + mode, which is just the same levels with more difficulty, which you likely won’t want to go back to.
There are also some questionable design choices. Why were there only two characters utitlized? Sergeant Calhoun and Vanellope von Schweetz are reduced to the odd bit of voice work when they could have been used more. Also, each of the three overall worlds (Fix-It Felix Jr, Hero’s Duty, Sugar Rush) have five levels each, consisting of four levels and a boss fight. Of course, you can’t actually play the fifth level boss fight until you’ve cleared the first four levels. In EACH of the three game worlds. What? So basically, you really have to clear 12 levels before running a boss battle gauntlet. Seemed odd.
The GamerPops Recommendation
Even at $30, this is still a shameful shameless movie cash-in game. This game could have been so much more, but instead it’s a minimal effort that I can’t really recommend. At least it’s somewhat fun for the short amount of time you do spend with it, which is about the best I can say about the title. This kind of effort simply should not be rewarded.
A review copy was provided to GamerPops.
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ESRB Rating Summary
Content descriptors: Mild Cartoon Violence
Rating summary: This is an action platformer based on characters from the animated movie Wreck-it Ralph. Players alternate between the cartoon-like characters of Ralph and Felix to save a video-game arcade from an impending invasion. As players run and jump through side-scrolling levels, they collect coins, avoid hazards, and use various moves (e.g., punches, shoulder charges, hammer throws) to defeat mechanical insects called Cybugs. Players’ character blinks when hit, and is returned to the nearest checkpoint when their health meter is empty.